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December 23, 2010

Is the Obama Administration about to get the federal death penalty going again?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this intriguing new blog entry from Josh Gerstein at Politico.com titled "Obama administration readies first execution."  Here are the basics:

The Justice Department is making preparations for what could be the first federal execution under President Barack Obama, according to a new court filing.

The Bureau of Prisons gave notice to a federal judge Wednesday that it intends to set an execution date for Jeffery Paul, 34. Paul was convicted in 1997 and sentenced to death for the robbery-murder of an 82-year-old National Park Service employee, Sherman Williams, on federal land in Hot Springs, Ark., in 1995.

Plans for the execution were disclosed by Justice Department lawyers in a lawsuit pending in Washington over federal lethal injection procedures. Several federal death row prisoners are covered by a stay entered in that suit, but Paul is not among them, since U.S. District Court Judge Richard Roberts denied Paul permission to join the case earlier this year, saying he had waited too long.

"Paul is not a party to this suit nor has he received a stay barring his execution in another jurisdiction. Given this posture, the U.S. Department of Justice respectfully informs the Court of its intent to set an execution date for Paul. ... Any date set for Paul’s execution will be at least 120 days after the filing of this Notice," said the filing submitted by the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, Ronald Machen....

Three executions took place in the federal system under President George W. Bush, including that of Oklahoma City federal building bomber Timothy McVeigh in 2001. The last execution was in March 2003. Before McVeigh was put to death by lethal injection, the federal government went almost four decades without carrying out an execution.

[A] 120-day period before an execution [following this notice] is designed to allow for court challenges as well as the filing of a commutation petition with the president.

For reasons that were never well explained, the Bush Administration allowed for the postponement of all executions based on lethal injection litigation over the three-drug protocol, and it never sought to get back into the execution business after Baze ruled this protocol was constitutional. It remains unclear, now two years into the Obama Administration, what is going on with this litigation.  Nevertheless, this new report from Politico suggests that somebody in the Justice Department is thinking about having the wheels of capital federal justice moving again.

December 23, 2010 at 08:04 PM | Permalink


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Why is the ongoing federal lethal injection litigation taking so long? I think it's in front of some Clinton judge in Washington DC. Ridiculous.

Posted by: federalist | Dec 24, 2010 11:10:17 AM

Well, it was bound to happen eventually. Still, even if he was executed in the spring, it will have been after FIVE YEARS OF LITIGATION. Seriously, the stays because of lethal injection litigation began in May 06. If I didn't know any better, I'd say they were just waiting for a White guy to run out of appeals because putting to death the six black inmates who won stays would be unseemly.

Before anyone cries racism, their victims are Black too.

Posted by: MikeinCT | Dec 24, 2010 10:14:10 PM

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